The Progressive Field lease is up for renewal in 2023, but can Browns fans teach their baseball friends something about keeping a franchise where it is?
Not that Indians fans need any advice from Cleveland Browns fans, but as it becomes time to renew the lease for Progressive Field in 2023, it might be worth reviewing the process to make sure that there is no repeat of the unfortunate situation that developed between the City and Art Modell, who wound up pulling up stakes and moving the team to Baltimore.
This must not be allowed to happen to the Indians.
The good news is that the Dolans are lifelong Clevelanders who are committed to the community and the politicians that made things complicated in the 1990s are long gone. The league has been relatively stable, with no franchise movement since the Montreal Expos pulled up stakes and moved south in 2004.
Hence there is every expectation that this is going to work out ultimately, but that does not mean it will be easy, or that it is impossible to screw it up.
The fans can do their part to make sure that there is a positive situation for the city, local businesses, and baseball to win. Definitely, fans will be voting for politicians that are pro-sports, pro-Indians, and pro-Browns in order to keep these franchises and their facilities at the top of the leagues.
One of the mistakes the community and the politicians made was to think that it could not happen, and the team could be simply taken for granted and whipped into submission. Some of the comforting but incorrect and dangerous thoughts that have been expressed to this are as follows:
“The city has an unbreakable lease that makes it impossible to move the franchise.”
Indeed, they have done their best to make it as hard as possible to move a professional sports franchise from Ohio. Section 9.67 of the Ohio Revised Code, known informally as the “Modell Law,” calls for sports team owners who use a tax-supported facility to give six months’ notice of their intent to move and allow locals a chance to buy the team, by matching the bid.
However, nothing is impossible for the right group of attorneys, who may find a loophole in the law that might prevent an Ohio group from matching the outside bidders. That’s why they make the big bucks.
“The commissioner and the other owners love us and would never allow that to happen.”
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the other NFL owners loved the Browns fans too, but the Ravens deal had to go forward because of the powers that were granted to the league owners. If Tagliabue and the other owners had interfered, all of the NFL franchises would have been devalued because each owner would have lost power.
The owners want to preserve their individual power because that makes owning the franchise more valuable. Take away that power and the value of each franchise in the league would decrease, probably by millions of dollars. That’s not going to happen.
“There are other franchises that deserve to be moved more than the Indians.”
That is completely irrelevant. When the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved to the West Coast in 1958, did they move because of poor attendance or an inability to win? Were they not competitive?
Either the Dodgers or the Giants were National League Champs in 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, and 1956. Then in 1957, they announced the move to California. During that same period, the Dodgers were first or second in the National League in attendance.
The Giants were more in the middle of the pack. The Milwaukee Braves were first in attendance when the Dodgers were second (fat lot of good it did for them also). Neither team the Dodgers nor the Giants “deserved” to be taken away from their fan bases.
The Browns move to Baltimore in 1995 had nothing to do with a lack of fan support. Thus, we may as well put aside arguments about how deserving the Cleveland fan base is, because that is totally irrelevant.
The bottom line is, moving the franchise would be a bad idea, but somethings people act on bad ideas. Art Modell is a case in point.